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All Blacks pass brutal Springboks test to secure World Cup final spot

Steve Hansen’s men took their two try-scoring chances wonderfully well.

South Africa 18

New Zealand 20

Murray Kinsella reports from Twickenham

TRAILING AT THE half-time break, Steve Hansen’s New Zealand returned to the pitch early.

They went through basic handling drills under the rain, before making a few hits on each shoulder. It was simple, straightforward, but it was an affirmation that they would stay true to what has made them such a great team.

Tendai Mtawarira and Frans Malherbe with MaÕa Nonu Source: James Crombie/INPHO

As the Springboks arrived back on the Twickenham pitch, the Kiwis were huddled together in the middle of the pitch. The leaders spoke calmly, the players were on their own, taking control of the situation and backing themselves to get the job done.

The final quarter was as tense as had been hoped for by the neutrals, but ultimately New Zealand’s two tries saw them squeeze past on a two-point margin.

This was a brutal, violent Test match in wet conditions between two sides who possess the kind of physical power that makes each of the collisions flinch-inducing.

Both defences were exceptional for large parts of the game, but the Kiwis managed to crack the Boks twice. Heyneke Meyer’s side could only kick penalties.

When their mental resilience was examined by the half-time deficit of 12-7 and the desperate final push from the Boks, the oft-lauded experience of the likes of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw was important. Meyer’s men forced the Kiwis to show real grit.

After the free-flowing attacking rugby against a pitiful France side last weekend, the tactics from the Kiwis showed their respect for the Boks. Aware that they were often running into a wall made of pure South Africa meat, Hansen’s men kicked plentifully.

The key was taking their two try-scoring chances clinically. No other team in the world possesses their ruthlessness and that’s what will make them favourites to beat either Australia or Argentina next weekend.

First they will need days to recuperate from this vicious test.

Daniel Carter kicks a drop goal Carter slotted a second-half drop goal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

After Pollard had given the Boks an early lead from the tee, New Zealand’s first try was superbly taken. Their first foray into the South African 22 had been through the use of a garryowen over Willie le Roux, but this time they kept ball in hand.

Kieran Read and Joe Moody made hefty carries, before Carter’s skip pass found McCaw on the right. Bryan Habana opted to shoot up on the Kiwi captain but found himself stranded in no man’s land as McCaw lofted the ball over Fourie du Preez’s head to Jerome Kaino.

Forward? A hint perhaps but not enough for the match officials to halt play, and Kaino finished in the right corner after fending off Lood de Jager far too easily. Carter cooly converted on the second attempt, Habana having charged down early on the first.

McCaw was caught offside for Pollard’s second penalty, before both side’s defences took over in ferocious fashion. New Zealand dominated possession and territory, with their tactics often revolving around a use of the grubber kick.

The Boks, meanwhile, preferred to bomb Nehe Milner-Skudder as one of their most effective uses of possession, Habana winning two particularly spectacular catches over the Kiwi right wing.

Pollard’s third penalty pushed the Boks back in front at 9-7, before Carter hit the post following a penalty against Schalk Burger for a shoulder charge.

With the break approaching, Read stole a lineout only for Carter to knock the turnover ball forward. Fourie Du Preez darted from the subsequent scrum, the ball popped loose and the otherwise excellent Kaino played it from an offside position with his foot.

Referee Jérôme Garcès - who was excellent in this game – saw it as cynical play and carded the Kiwi back row, also allowing the excellent Pollard to send the Boks into half-time 12-7 ahead.

The Kiwis’ response after that interval was impressive as they again pushed deep into Boks’ territory with their kicking game. Carter popped over a clever drop goal from scrappy lineout possession in the 46th minute, before Hansen’s men created their second try.

Beauden Barrett celebrates his try Barrett celebrates his second-half try. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Burger was guilty of losing possession inside the Boks 22, with New Zealand launching a brilliant attacking passage from the turnover. Brodie Retallick, Kaino and Dane Coles were among the close-in carriers, before Carter moved the ball wide to the left.

Ma’a Nonu found himself with a two-on-two, but had the footwork and intelligence to attract both Damien de Allende and wing JP Pietersen towards him. The latter should have trusted his centre to tackle, but bit in and allowed Beauden Barrett – just on for the injured Milner-Skudder – an easy finish.

Amid that relentless Kiwi attack was a penalty offence by Habana, only minutes after a silly push that injured Milner-Skudder. The wing slapped the ball down deliberately as Aaron Smith attempted to shift it away.

Despite the try, Garces returned to the offence and binned Habana, as Carter converted the score for a 17-12 lead.

But there were imperfections again as Read knocked on at the base of a defensive scrum and then the Boks pack fired themselves up to win a huge penalty. Pollard drew them back to within two points from straight in front.

Straight from the restart, Eben Etzebeth went off his feet to allow Carter to swiftly make it a five-point game again, as both coaches began to use their strong benches heading into the final quarter.

How tense it proved to be, particularly after replacement out-half Pat Lambie smashed over an excellent long-range penalty to punish a maul infringement from the Kiwis. The Boks battled for their World Cup lives in the closing minutes, but ended the game deep in their 22 with the rain drifting down again.

South Africa scorers:

Penalties: Handré Pollard (5 from 5), Pat Lambie (1 from 1)

New Zealand scorers:

Tries: Jerome Kaino, Beauden Barrett

Conversions: Dan Carter (2 from 2)

Penalties: Dan Carter (1 from 2)

Drop goal: Dan Carter

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian De Allende (Jan Serfontein ’79), Bryan Habana (YC – ’52 to ’62); Handré Pollard (Pat Lambie ’65), Fourie du Preez (capt.); Tendai Mtawarira (Trevor Nyakane ’53), Bismarck du Plessis (Adriaan Strauss ’53), Frans Malherbe (Jannie du Plessis ’60); Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager (Victor Matfield ’60); Francois Louw (Willem Alberts – blood ’29 to ’35), Schalk Burger (Willem Alberts ’64), Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements not used: Ruan Pienaar.

NEW ZEALAND: Ben Smith; Nehe Milner-Skudder (Beauden Barrett ’49), Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu (Sonny Bill Williams ’53), Julian Savea; Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody (Ben Franks ’69), Dane Coles (Keven Mealamu ’66), Owen Franks (Charlie Faumuina ’53); Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock; Jerome Kaino (YC ’39 to ’49) (Sam Cane ’66), Richie McCaw (capt.), Kieran Read.

Replacements not used: Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

Referee: Jérôme Garcès.

Attendance: 80,090.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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